A Question About RV Air Conditioner Shortages

We recently received this question about air conditioner shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hi Mike, I’ve enjoyed reading your articles this past year and I have really learned a lot; so, many thanks for publishing them. Also, I value your opinion, and I would appreciate your opinion on an issue I am confronted with. I have had Northstar Laredo SS on order since early October, 2020, and it finally arrived at the dealer this week. Well, the dealer approved shipment from the factory without consulting me, and the Laredo came in without the Coleman Mach 9200 Cub air conditioner. Apparently, Northstar cannot get A/C units from the supplier. This is a major problem, and I am really unhappy with the dealer to say the least. What he really wants is me to not accept the truck camper, so he can refund my deposit after which he can sell it for more money.

The dealer is now trying to get me to accept a Coleman Mach 1 Power Saver (11,000 BTU model #48207) that he wants to install along with a $1,500 price adder. I compared this A/C to the factory Northstar A/C, and it is larger in terms of cooling capacity (11,000 vs 9,200 BTUs); it draws more current (9.9 vs 9.6 amps), which is not significant, but the big issue in the difference in height (13.8 inches vs 8.25 inches), making it one big air dam. In my opinion, the Coleman Mach 1 A/C the dealer is pushing me to accept is not a good fit for my truck camper application.

Sorry for the epistle, but I wanted to give you the background. My question to you is: do you have any experience with installing an A/C on a truck camper? Do you have any advice on this particular A/C or do you know of any other models that might work for me? Many thanks.

Rich in South Carolina

Thanks, Rich, for reaching out. I wouldn’t be too hard on Northstar because the lack of air conditioners is a real issue right now due to COVID. Contact any RV manufacturer now and they will provide you a list of problems caused by the pandemic. Appliances, parts, and construction materials are in short supply everywhere. Many have had to make due with secondary products that are in some cases not as good as the primary ones. My advice to you is to keep the camper because the waiting lists for campers are about 12 months out for most companies and in some cases even longer due to high demand. It seems like everyone wants an RV now. The market has gone crazy.

As for installing an air conditioner, most RV repair shops can do it. If forking out the $1,500 doesn’t appeal to you, you can do the job yourself. It isn’t that hard. The 14×14-inch vent opening in your camper should already be pre-wired for 120 volt AC. The real difficultly lies in getting it up on the roof. Most air conditioners weigh between 80 and 100 pounds. That’s a lot of weight. Most shops lift the air conditioners to the roof using either a forklift or hoist.

However, finding an air conditioner that meets all of your requirements may be the biggest challenge. Like most truck camper owners, you will probably want to buy a low profile 120 volt air conditioner with a low amp draw that can be run using either a 2,000 watt generator or a 2,000 watt inverter powered by a lithium battery bank. The Coleman Mach 1 you mentioned seems like a decent unit, but as you pointed out, it’s not a low profile unit.

So what’s the bottom line? Beggars can’t be choosers right now. One option is to go with a larger, 13,500 BTU air unit and use it primarily on the low setting to keep amperage consumption low (that’s what we currently do with our new Truma Aventa). Another option, of course, is to go with a 12 volt DC air conditioner and forego the generator and inverter altogether. But beware, DC air conditioners are more expensive, a lot more. A survey of what we consider to be the best AC and DC air conditioners for truck campers can be found by clicking here.

About Mello Mike 621 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a certified RVIA Level 1 RV Technician, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. A communications expert, he retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, worked in project management, and now runs Truck Camper Adventure full-time. He also does some RV consulting, repairs, and inspections on the side. He currently rolls in a 2013 Ram 3500 with a 2021 Bundutec Roadrunner truck camper mounted on top.

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